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Amer Picon: The Iconic French Aperitif You Need to Try

Amer Picon is a French bitter orange and gentian aperitif that has been enjoyed since 1837. It was created by Gaetan Picon, a French cavalry officer stationed in Algeria. The name “Amer” means bitter in French, which accurately describes the bittersweet taste of the drink.

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Picon AMER Liqueur

Picon Amer is a popular aperitif in northern France and parts of Belgium. It is usually consumed before a meal to stimulate the appetite. The drink is typically served over ice with a slice of orange or lemon and a splash of soda water. Amer Picon is also commonly used as an ingredient in cocktails such as the Brooklyn and the Picon Biere.

Over the years, the recipe for Amer Picon has changed, resulting in a milder version with an alcohol content of 18% ABV. Despite this, Amer Picon remains a beloved and iconic French aperitif that is steeped in history and tradition. Its unique flavor and versatility make it a favorite among cocktail enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike.

History

Origin

Amer Picon is a French bitter liqueur that was first created in 1837 by Gaétan Picon, a French soldier serving in Algeria. Picon had contracted malaria and was looking for a cure for his illness. He mixed quinine, the active ingredient in tonic water, with orange peel and other botanicals to create a tonic that he believed would help him recover. He called this tonic “Amer Africain.”

Picon eventually returned to France and began selling his tonic to local bars and cafes. The drink became popular and Picon began to produce it on a larger scale. In 1872, he registered the name “Amer Picon” as a trademark.

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Evolution

Over the years, the recipe for Amer Picon has changed. The original formula contained quinine, which gave the drink its bitter taste, but quinine was later replaced with gentian root. The orange peel and other botanicals in the recipe have also been adjusted over time.

Today, Amer Picon is primarily consumed as an aperitif, often mixed with beer or soda. It is particularly popular in the north and east of France, as well as in Belgium.

Despite its popularity, Amer Picon has faced some challenges in recent years. In 2013, the French government banned the use of the name “Amer Picon” in advertising, claiming that it was misleading because the drink no longer contains quinine. The company that produces Amer Picon has since changed the name of the drink to “Picon Bière.”

Ingredients

Primary Ingredients

Amer Picon is a French bitter liqueur that is made with a variety of ingredients. The primary ingredients include:

IngredientDescription
Neutral AlcoholUsed as the base for the liqueur
Orange PeelBoth fresh and dried orange peel are used to give the liqueur its distinct citrus flavor
Gentian RootUsed for its bitter flavor and medicinal properties
QuinquinaA type of bark that is used for its bitter flavor and medicinal properties
SugarAdded to balance out the bitterness of the other ingredients
CaramelUsed for color and flavor

Secondary Ingredients

There are also a few secondary ingredients that may be added to Amer Picon depending on the brand or recipe:

  • Lemon Juice
  • Orange Juice
  • Bitter Orange Peels
  • Combier
  • Amaro Ramazzotti
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These ingredients are often used in cocktail recipes that call for Amer Picon. For example, a popular cocktail called the Brooklyn combines Amer Picon with rye whiskey, dry vermouth, and maraschino liqueur.

Taste Profile

Flavor

Amer Picon has a bittersweet taste with a lightly syrupy texture. The primary flavors are bitter orange zest, quinine, and orange juice. There are also notes of boiled cabbage and mocha coffee. The bitter backbone is strong and long-lasting, which makes it a perfect ingredient for classic cocktails like Brooklyn and Picon Punch.

When used in cocktails, Amer Picon adds an intense and complex flavor that balances the sweetness of other ingredients. It enhances the overall taste profile and provides a bitter kick that lingers on the palate.

Aroma

The aroma of Amer Picon is zesty and citrus-forward, with notes of wildflowers and anise. The orange liqueur base is prominent, and you can also detect the scent of gentian, quinine, and alpine herbs. The aroma is intense and inviting, making it a perfect aperitif before a meal.

Overall, Amer Picon has a unique taste profile that sets it apart from other amari. Its bitter backbone and citrus-forward aroma make it a versatile ingredient in cocktails and a perfect aperitif.

Popular Cocktails

Brooklyn

The Brooklyn cocktail is a classic cocktail that has been around since the early 1900s. It is a whiskey-based cocktail that is typically made with rye whiskey, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and Amer Picon. The cocktail is stirred with ice and strained into a chilled glass. The Brooklyn cocktail is a great cocktail for whiskey lovers who want to try something new.

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Picon Punch

The Picon Punch is a traditional Basque cocktail that is made with Amer Picon, grenadine, brandy, and soda water. The cocktail is typically served over ice and garnished with a slice of orange. The Picon Punch is a refreshing cocktail that is perfect for a warm summer day.

Colonial Boy

The Colonial Boy is a tea-based cocktail that is made with Lapsang Souchong tea, whisky liqueur, and Yukon Jack. It is a smoky and spicy cocktail that is perfect for those who enjoy a little bit of heat in their cocktails. The Colonial Boy is a unique cocktail that is sure to impress.

Conclusion

Amer Picon is a French bitter aperitif that has been enjoyed for over 150 years. Its unique flavor profile, with notes of orange, gentian, and quinine, makes it a versatile ingredient in cocktails and a popular choice for aperitifs.

Thanks to its popularity, there are several substitutes available for Amer Picon, such as Amer Torani, Amaro CioCiaro, Ramazzotti Amaro, Amaro Montenegro, and Amaro Nonino. Each of these substitutes has its own unique flavor profile and can be a great alternative to Amer Picon in cocktails and other recipes.

Campari Group’s recent acquisition of the Picon brand from Diageo further solidifies Amer Picon’s place in the market and ensures its availability for years to come. Whether you’re a seasoned bartender or a home mixologist, Amer Picon is a must-try ingredient for any cocktail enthusiast.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

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Paul Kushner

Written by Paul Kushner

Founder and CEO of MyBartender. Graduated from Penn State University. He always had a deep interest in the restaurant and bar industry. His restaurant experience began in 1997 at the age of 14 as a bus boy. By the time he turned 17 he was serving tables, and by 19 he was bartending/bar managing 6-7 nights a week.

In 2012, after a decade and a half of learning all facets of the industry, Paul opened his first restaurant/bar. In 2015, a second location followed, the latter being featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

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